Spiders and wetas rank among The Amazing Race contestant Aston Garratt's worst fears.
So plenty of will power was needed when she ate deep-fried tarantulas in Cambodia during filming of the popular reality TV series.
"It's a head game. I managed to get through it and I felt like I had conquered the world or climbed Mt Everest," she said.
The show pits Australians against New Zealanders in a race around the world.
Garratt, a psychology student, lives in Torbay with her son Seth, 4.
She said the experience took her on a spiritual and physical journey.
The biggest thing she learnt was that when life gets tough you never know what is around the corner, Garratt said.
"I was a depressed, suicidal teenager and I'm so glad I stuck around and pushed through all the hard stuff in my life because this experience has been incredibly life-changing."
Garratt and friend Christie Orr star on the show as the "overweight comic relief".
Orr is a natural comedian, Garratt said.
"That's what we like to do, go around and make people laugh at us. There's some great moments there that give some great laughs and that's all we could ask for really."
They met while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in New York seven years ago and discovered they were both from Auckland.
They'd never argued before the show but Garratt said there is lots of drama coming up.
"We have so many similarities but we're like sisters, we can clash really easily."
The experience taught Garratt a lot about getting along with people.
"Normally you can just walk away but we didn't have that luxury. We were forced to make it work," she said.
The contestants are watching The Amazing Race for the first time as it screens on television.
"It's so much fun watching it and reliving it. With reality TV you get really worried that they're going to make you look bad. But we were really happy," Garratt said.
Garratt and Orr had only three weeks to prepare for the race before they took off.
Confidentiality agreements meant the contestants were "spinning lies for months" about where they had been.
They could finally break their silence when the first advertisements appeared.
The series is now screening on TV so the teams still have to keep quiet about the final placings.
But Garratt said she loved every challenge and would do the show again in a heartbeat.
"When stuff gets hard now I think maybe there's another The Amazing Race - something else that makes it worth sticking around."
- North Shore Times
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